Making Sense of the Food Pyramid

Q: How do I interpret the USDA’s food pyramid? What are appropriate portions for each food group?

A: The food pyramid consists of six major categories: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat & beans, milk and oils. The guidelines below are based on a diet containing roughly 2,000 calories per day – enough for the average adult. By visiting, you can create a personal food pyramid and menu plan! Try keeping a food diary for a day or two and see how your diet matches up to the following recommendations. Then you’ll be able make substitutions and adjustments where necessary.

Food Group Single Serving Size
Grains – 6 servings per day 1 slice of bread = ¼ typical bagel = ½ English muffin = 1 cup of cereal = ½ cup cooked oatmeal, rice or pasta = ¼ cup granola 
Fruit – 4 servings per day ½ cup fruit slices = 1 medium-sized banana/apple/peach = ¼ cup dried fruit = ½ cup fruit juice 
Vegetables – 5 servings per day ½ cup cooked veggies = ½ cup raw veggies = ½ cup vegetable juice = ½ cup legumes = 1 cup raw, leafy greens (e.g. spinach, lettuce) 

Note: Legumes will also appear in the meat group because of their high protein content, but technically, they are vegetables.


Dairy – 3 servings per day 1 cup (8 fl oz) milk = 2 oz processed cheese (e.g. American) = 1 cup yogurt = 1.5 oz natural cheese (e.g. cheddar, mozzarella) 
Meats, poultry, fish, nuts – 6 servings per day 1 oz lean meat, chicken or fish = 1 slice of deli meat = 1 egg = ¼ cup legumes or tofu = 1 tbsp peanut butter = ½ oz nuts or seeds 
Oils – 6 servings per day 1 tsp oil = 1 tbsp mayonnaise = 2 tbsp light salad dressing = 1 tsp margarine

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One response to “Making Sense of the Food Pyramid

  1. Pingback: The Acai Berry: A Superfood? « The Healthy Diet

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